Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Alive in Baghdad

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Dec 13, 2006

A few days ago, the link to the site Alive in Baghdad was posted on ITForum. When the site first appeared as a candidate for the Vloggie awards in early November, my impression was pretty negative. Maybe I was wrong; who knows? Not the point. The point is that ITForum erupted, first with a rant about terrorists and a very negative denouncement of the site, and then with a series of posts saying the matter was off-topic and should be kept off the site. In all fairness, it's unlikely any of the members of ITForum were aware that this was a prominent site being supported for an award. Still, not the point.

To me, the point is this (and this is what I posted to ITForum): "The point of the post is to show how Iraqis are using internet technologies and informal learning techniques to educate themselves and the rest of the world about what is really happening in Iraq. The whole point is that the internet liberates, empowers." And a day later, I wrote, "from my perspective, all the stuff about training and competencies and the like are off-topic, distorting the landscape with a very overt corporate and conservative agenda, an e-learning as job-training agenda. But when you live in a world where learning has everything to do with work and earnings, and nothing to do with freedom and empowerment, the training and earnings stuff is on-topic and the freedom stuff is a needless distraction... I don't expect you to agree with me - but I do expect you to recognize that what is neutral and benign to you is often very biased and politically loaded to me."

Today the moderator of the list responded with an interesting and informative set of posts. First, she linked to Katy Campbell, Richard A. Schwier and Richard F. Kenny, who write, "designers have not necessarily recognised their agency in the development of a knowledge economy that reflects culturally biased views of teaching, learning, and the construction of knowledge." She also linked to a lecture by Clare Brant on the topic of Mi'kmaq Ethics and Principles, interesting to me because his document reflects very closely my own attitudes and beliefs.

And I will say that I spent enough time in the Canadian north and among First Nations peoples to know that they (and Canadians in general) are not above making a pointed remark when the time is appropriate. And maybe the time is appropriate. Which is why I appreciated this post from Mike Klonsky very directly connecting support for the war with various educational reform efforts discused here and on the list. And to be perfectly blunt: "The War In Iraq Costs $347,004,942,917. Instead, we could have provided 16,822,035 students four-year scholarships at public universities."

I think that's clear enough. And though it may not win me any awards, I will not surrender the moral high ground to people who believe they can justify the bombing of a city over the educating of a child. And to quote the other thing I said on ITForum: "this sort of nonsense in Iraq has gone on long enough, and it is the failure to speak up that has let it happen." It's time, don't you think? The right time, and yes, the right place.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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